Bumble bees are charismatic and easily recognizable pollinators thanks to their large size, loud buzz, and distinctive color patterns. They play an incredibly important role in sustaining the health of our environment by pollinating flowers in natural and urban areas, and by contributing to successful harvests on farms.
Minnesota is home to about 24 different bumble bee species. However, one out of three of our bumble bee species are in trouble and face an uncertain future. Minnesota is one of the few places where we still find the federally endangered rusty patched bumble bee. Although not listed federally, four other Minnesota bumble bees are listed as critically endangered with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature: Ashton’s cuckoo bumble bee, southern plains bumble bee, Suckley’s cuckoo bumble bee, and variable cuckoo bumble bee. Another three species are listed as vulnerable: the yellow bumble bee, the American bumble bee, and the yellow banded bumble bee. Unfortunately, the bumble bee situation in Minnesota bears out across much of North America.
The causes of these declines are not fully understood, but the following are likely at fault: habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, low genetic diversity, and the introduction and distribution of pathogens through commercial pollinators. Regardless of the ultimate cause of bumble bee declines, protecting and managing existing habitat or creating new habitat are some of the most immediate and productive steps that can be taken to conserve these important pollinators.
You can learn how to properly ID the rusty patched bumble bee and more by joining University of Minnesota Extension and our Bee Lab for a bumble bee identification workshop on June 10! This workshop will train you to ID common bumble bees, safely handle and photograph bees, and record data. Weather permitting, we will get outside to find some bees on flowers. The workshop will take place at the Rice County fairgrounds from 9:30 am – 12:00 pm on Saturday, June 10. For more information and to register, visit https://z.umn.edu/BumblebeeIDFaribault.
This training is important because the Midwest Bumble Bee Survey is looking for people willing to walk among flower patches, collecting data, and photographing bumble bees. This crucial data informs conservation and recovery plans for threatened and endangered bumble bees. After this workshop, you can adopt a grid cell, choose your survey location, and help document bumble bee populations this summer! You can learn more about the Bumble Bee Atlas at mnbumblebeeatlas.umn.edu
With your help, we can quickly cover the entire state, collect high-quality data, and contribute to bumble bee conservation. Our efforts will help conservation biologists, restoration practitioners, and policy makers do a better job protecting, restoring, and managing effective habitat that support healthy bumble bee populations.